January 20 – March 10, 2017
One of the paradoxes of the real estate market is the proliferation of empty storefronts in ostensibly strong economies. Walking through mixed-use neighborhoods in cosmopolitan cities, one almost always finds streets pockmarked by for-lease signs peeking through riot guards pulled shut. This holds true whether the empty space’s neighbors are a convenience store, a bank, or a luxury flagship. These punctuations break up any potential cohesiveness of space in the city; the old idea of the specific neighborhood (“garment district,” “seafood market,” whatever) is impossible without real density of use. The alleged metabolism of the city gives way to ketosis. When vacated, these storefronts are ritually stripped of the previous tenant’s names and markings, but in many cases, the bones are left behind. Tables will be left in a shut restaurant, rags static on their tops; corner stores will have their racks more or less in place, still holding whatever chips the last tenant didn’t want to take. We’re left with fragments to assemble.
In Architrave, her solo show at Skibum MacArthur, Stephanie Gonzalez-Turner presents two bodies of work engaging with the ironies and affects of architectural space in late capitalism. Architrave (2018), a site-specific work for Skibum MacArthur, is inspired in part by Buildings for Best Products, an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in 1979–1980, which showcased architect-designed façades for Best Products, a now-defunct catalog retailer. A series of stepped surfaces envelop the windows of the gallery, inverting the façade by bringing it inside and reacting as much to the corrugated tin-clad buildings outside as the space and surfaces within. References run the gamut from banks retrofitted into pharmacies to Mesopotamian monuments to Modernist masters like Wright and Scarpa. Just as the elaborate window and floor displays of luxury retailers obfuscate the actual built texture of the store, sacrificing space to spectacle, Gonzalez-Turner builds a hyperreal quasi-façade within, bringing attention to the window frames of a gallery retrofitted in an industrial building, to the buildings beyond, and unto itself.
With Elisions (2018), one encounters a series of discrete shelflike units arranged along a wall, nested in sheets of beveled foam. The acrylic accumulations, evocative of prefab acrylic displays from wholesale catalogs, look at first glance like the bare surfaces of a jeweler shut for the night, but reveal themselves to be impossible spatial knots, unable to display anything beyond, well, themselves. Existing somewhere between the architectural model and shelving systems, the Elisions, generate meaning through absence. In the slant rhymes between the individual pieces, one searches for repetition and pattern—and thus potential use—in the forms.
Recently, I went to an exhibition of new work by a well-known artist. The show included handsome, almost-too-tasteful paintings and some glass sculptures. But the real interest was the pedestals. Looking like generic white cuboids at first glance, up close they turned out to be calcareous, marbled beauties with indecipherable materiality. This experience is not uncommon these days. Display systems and store design are ever more sophisticated and seductive, often upstaging the objects they exist to highlight. The sale of individual items is no longer as important as the brand at large and the capital—real and cultural—it generates. The history and evolution of the aesthetics of retail spaces—perhaps the most important public spaces of our age—are at the heart of Architrave.
Stephanie Gonzalez-Turner is an artist living and working in Brooklyn, NY. She graduated from the Yale MFA Painting program last spring. This fall she completed a year-long applied research grant sponsored by Yale-HP with Christie DeNizio.